PIC July Blog

Assess Your Organizational Excellence in Pipeline Operations By Asking These Simple Questions…

Organizational excellence is becoming a focal point for the oil and gas pipeline industry. In fact, API noted in their 2020-2022 Pipeline Strategic Plan Goals that promoting organizational excellence is their number one goal for companies to improve pipeline safety through the implementation of their Pipeline Safety Management System (PSMS / API 1173).

Yet, what exactly is organizational excellence? It’s something that a lot of industry leaders talk about but have difficulty quantifying.

  • How do you measure performance of organizational excellence?
  • How do you close gaps in your safety programs?
  • How do you verify that the improvements in organizational excellence are having the desired effect on your safety programs and are reducing your risk of an incident?

In order to answer these high-level questions, operators first need to assess their current behavior so that they can take the appropriate steps to improve organizational excellence.

Organizational Excellence Starts With a Behavior Shift

The traditional challenge for pipeline operators since the inception of the pipeline integrity management rules in 2004 has been reconciling three things:

  • What your safety plans say you will do.
  • What the safety regulations require you to do.
  • What you are actually doing.

For too long, operators have used the audit as the basis for measuring the competence of their safety plans, procedures, and, more recently, their implementation. This has placed operators in reaction mode simply trying to satisfy an audit rather than examining their behaviors as a root cause of safety issues.

Operators need to shift their focus to proactively assess and understand these behaviors and their impact on the root causes of organizational failure, which have been linked to most of the high-profile safety incidents (e.g. San Bruno, Marshall, and Merrimack Valley). This will help operators identify opportunities to improve safety culture through consistency, continuity, and accountability that leads to organizational excellence.

If your operation’s goal is to have a compliant plan, that’s one thing. But, the plan itself will not support the industry-wide objective of improved safety on its own. Checking boxes to capture compliance with the “shall” statements in your safety plans will not move the needle. What will move the needle is having quality mechanisms in place to ensure:

  • The right person is doing the right job, the right way, in the right place, at the right time.
  • Any variance is communicated.
  • Improvements are made based on lessons learned.

This approach goes directly to fostering your operation’s safety culture that supports organizational excellence.

Improving Safety Culture Will Drive a Reduction in Safety Risks

An effective safety culture requires the support of leadership and employees to buy into organizational excellence and to commit to safety improvement objectives.

If the culture supports the idea that organizational excellence is a means to improve your safety posture, then complying with standards, best practices, and regulations becomes a natural phenomenon, which we call Natural Compliance.

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A healthy culture becomes the foundation supporting organizational excellence as the means by which your organization prevents and mitigates organizational failure. To arrive at this point, operators need to assess their organizational excellence. The following set of questions serve as a starting point to understand your potential for organizational failure.

Questions to Address Risk of Organizational Failure

Consider this series of important questions that your operation might ask to understand better the potential risks that need to be prevented/mitigated on the path to a healthy safety culture.

1. Are we applying the full Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle (PDCA cycle) across all aspects of the pipeline life cycle? The systematic application of quality management principles will set your operation on the right path of mitigating the root causes of organizational failure in support of organizational excellence.

2. Do we have complete and current plans, processes, and procedures? As part of this effort, the plans, processes, and procedures should be clearly articulated, up to date, and assessed to ensure they include function, training, tools, communications, and data management.

3. Do we train effectively? Does the training include not only the function, but all aspects of the improved plans, processes and procedures, including data management, communications, and the proper use of the required equipment?

4. Do we execute properly? Are any “Checks” being implemented to understand the degree to which these plans, processes, and procedures are being properly executed?

5. Do we evaluate our effectiveness? Following compliance with plans, processes, and procedures, are you actually measuring whether these actions were effective? Are there “Checks” in place to ensure the right outcomes?

6. Do we take corrective actions when evaluations show that we are not meeting our objectives or getting the results we desire? Are corrective actions identified, documented, and completed following input from the various stakeholders?  And, are these corrective actions communicated to the affected personnel?

7. Do we communicate effectively within our business unit and/or across business units? Do team members hold themselves and others accountable, talk about the safety culture, and encourage each other to support organizational excellence? Do you clearly outline when specific communications are required and who the target is? And, is there a mechanism in place to “check” that these communications are 1) being made, 2) being received, and 3) being acted upon as necessary?

8. Do we communicate effectively with contractors? The effectiveness of communication with contractors can have a profound impact on organizational excellence. The same approach to internal communications should be applied to external.

9. Do we manage lessons learned? Is there a mechanism to capture lessons learned and a means of “checking” that they are shared with the appropriate personnel, read, and understood? And, are corrective actions being taken as necessary?

10. Do we document properly? Is your operation capturing, recording, and documenting that you are doing what you said you were going to do? Proper documentation not only supports the “Checks,” it also supports audits, and creates an information data set that can be used to ensure that previous events are considered before all work.

11. Do we schedule properly? Are you managing the scheduling of activities so that the right person is doing the right thing in the right way at the right time?

Next Steps: Organizational Excellence Improvement

The answer to questions such as these will provide insight into the level of risk for organizational failure. Deeper investigation, identification, and implementation of corrective actions and proper communication will improve organizational excellence.

Taking these steps can seem daunting for pipeline groups that already have enough on their plate. That’s why having a mechanism in place is essential, in combination with a means to manage stakeholder engagement to collect feedback and optimize communications. 

We can help through our industry-leading program/process management and stakeholder engagement software tools.

Consider Software Tools to Achieve Organizational Excellence

P.I. Confluence offers a robust solution to help operators elevate their safety culture and realize safety improvements. Consider the opportunity to utilize these software tools:

  • ComplyMgr: perform an assessment of any gaps that exist in your plans, the implementation of your plans, and your compliance with safety regulations.
  • ICAM: support process improvements by ensuring that personnel manage, schedule, track, document, measure, and report.
  • pSEc: identify organizational threats, support stakeholder engagement, and measure safety performance Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

Now, you can measure whether you are on the path to organizational excellence.
Would you like to know more about how to leverage our software tools in your operation? Contact us today to schedule a consultation and educational demo. We’ll show you how we can help your operation reduce risk and create a healthier safety culture.

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